Posts Tagged 'education'

Tactile approaches to help learners visualize key processes in environmental health sciences

This chapter describes how hands-on models, or manipulatives, can be employed to improve the environmental health literacy of a variety of people, from science teachers and students in classrooms, to global audiences in large festival gatherings. Environmental health concepts can be quite abstract. For example, the effect of wood smoke on human lungs. People are concerned about the exposure to toxic molecules from the smoke, but find an explanation of the chemical process by which wood smoke harms human health too difficult to fully understand. Hands-on activities and models are a visual and tactile way of communicating essential molecular environmental health concepts in an inviting way without requiring a technical background.

The MIT Edgerton Center Molecule Set (hereafter referred to as the Molecule Set) is one example of an engaging model set that employs a simple design of differently colored LEGO® bricks to represent atoms. The set was designed to teach chemical principles to middle school students, and has evolved to include new topics with a more environmental health emphasis such as climate change and air pollution. The success of the Molecule Set and corresponding lessons stems from a unique collaboration between MIT scientists and the MIT Edgerton Center. This chapter highlights the Molecule Set and other relevant examples where hands-on models have been used to communicate abstract science concepts and improve environmental health literacy.

Continue reading ‘Tactile approaches to help learners visualize key processes in environmental health sciences’

Effects of teaching household actions to address ocean acidification on student knowledge and attitudes

Ocean acidification (OA), the change in ocean chemistry due to increasing concentrations of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is an environmental problem that is an active area of scientific research yet remains largely outside of the public’s awareness. It is often assumed that if we raise OA awareness, then the public will support and take action to help mitigate the problem. This research project examines this assumption through the lens of educating high school students about OA. The research included three phases: (i) review of existing teaching resources on OA, (ii) development and refinement of a new OA curriculum based on strengths and gaps identified during the review process, and (iii) a longitudinal experiment testing the impacts to knowledge and attitudes of two approaches to teaching about OA. This study has implications for those engaging in OA outreach and education efforts specifically, and for environmental education campaigns in general. During this study, we found that at least 90 teaching resources focused on OA are already available. These resources provide teachers with multiple approaches to teaching about OA, yet do not adequately address the multiple impacts of OA nor teach students about ways to help address the problem. We developed our own curriculum that underwent four rounds of revisions before appearing in the form presented here. Our experiment found that our teaching intervention increased knowledge but that attitudinal changes, when present, did not persist over time. Despite this lack of attitude change, student attitudes were generally sufficient to support mitigation actions.

Continue reading ‘Effects of teaching household actions to address ocean acidification on student knowledge and attitudes’

UK public perceptions of ocean acidification – the importance of place and environmental identity

The marine environment is affected by climate change in many ways but it is also affected by the separate problem of ocean acidification (OA). Anthropogenic carbon dioxide that is absorbed by the ocean causes changes in ocean chemistry including an increase in acidity. Fisheries and shellfish industries, which are vital livelihoods for some communities have already been affected by OA. As there has been little research conducted to examine public risk perceptions of this issue, the aim was to explore this through a survey (N = 954) carried out in the UK. The survey explored a range of psychological factors including concern, place attachment, and environmental identity that are known to influence risk perceptions. A regression analysis found that more concerned participants had stronger environmental identities and higher levels of knowledge about OA. As predicted, they also felt more attached to the ocean and felt more negative about OA. It was clear that place attachment and environmental identity were important factors and thus should not be neglected when developing risk communications, particularly for this unfamiliar risk issue. As unfamiliar and complex risks such as OA are becoming more prevalent and must be communicated successfully in a world full of conflicting information, it is important to consider how OA is perceived by the public and how this can inform policy decisions in future. If major mitigation and adaptation strategies are adopted by policymakers the success of these will also ultimately require society to accept them.

Continue reading ‘UK public perceptions of ocean acidification – the importance of place and environmental identity’

Ocean under global change: from science to school

This article includes a methodological proposal in which students collaborate with scientists in order to establish a significative series of data to know the impacts of Climate Change on a shellfish bank which represents the main socio-economic motor in a costal population of more than 14000 habitants live. This proposal explains the theoretical background of the experience as well as the teaching strategy through laboratory practices which allows the students to act as efficient scholar scientists on this type of collaborations with research teams. Also described is the practical application of this knowledge on an investigation allowing for the beginning of a temporal series of data about the situation regarding the collection of cockles (Cerastordema edule) to understand how Climate Change can affect this valuable economic resource in Galicia – Spain. This applied scholar science is described ending with the analysis of data through our accumulation of graphs and the creation of our conclusions. Through our conclusions we have found the necessity of carrying on the kind of studies in the following years remarkable both, before and after, the recruitment campaign in order to obtain conclusions about possible adaptations of the duration of the recruitment period to Climate Change. Via our pedagogically obtained conclusions, we have found interest in this type of proposal to be valuable for the acceleration of the incorporation of these contents to the syllabus due to the urgency of the arrival of this knowledge to society.

Continue reading ‘Ocean under global change: from science to school’

Digital technologies as support for learning about the marine environment: steps toward ocean literacy

Over the last century the ocean has been negatively impacted by human activities. In order to continue benefitting from marine services and goods, and the qualities afforded to human life through the ocean, citizens need to be informed about their relationship to the ocean and their own impact on it, that is they need to be ocean literate. Marine education is challenging, as most of the ocean is invisible to the human eye and marine processes are spread over large temporal and spatial scales. Digital technologies have the potential to support learning about the ocean as, virtually, they can take learners into the depths of the ocean and help them visualise complex interactions between different factors over time and space. This thesis consists of four studies scrutinising the role of different digital technologies for learning about marine environmental issues with an emphasis on communicative aspects, with two of the studies having a specific focus on ocean literacy. Study I is a literature review of the use of digital technologies in environmental education. Study II investigates the use of a marine research institute’s Facebook page aimed at supporting communication and learning about marine topics. Study III addresses the use of a carbon footprint calculator as an opportunity for students to reason about their greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, Study IV analyses the questions asked by students on an online platform where they engage in an asynchronous discussion with a scientist around the issues of ocean acidification. The four studies show how the use of digital technologies in environmental education can make the invisible visible, allowing engagement with and manipulation of the abstract features of the ocean. As demonstrated in my studies and as is evident from previous research in the multidisciplinary field of environmental science, digital technologies offer new means to make sense of and engage with global environmental issues. These technologies provide a field of action where users can experiment, make mistakes, get feedback and try again in ways that are different from paper-based learning activities. The findings from Studies II, III and IV also illustrate the challenges associated with these technologies, and it becomes obvious that the technical features of a tool do not determine the kind of interactions that will evolve from its use. The contexts in which a tool is used, and what the features mean to the users in situ, are key, and demonstrate the importance of studying not only the outcome of a learning practice but also the ongoing interaction between the users and the tool in a specific context. In conclusion, this thesis offers an overview of the range of impacts that digital technologies can have on the development of ocean literacy, as well as illustrating how technologies open up new ways of learning about marine environmental issues both inside and outside of school. It also provides an account of why ocean literacy is such an important skill for 21st-century citizens living in a rapidly changing world with significant challenges to the environment and our own habitats.

Continue reading ‘Digital technologies as support for learning about the marine environment: steps toward ocean literacy’

Assessing public awareness of marine environmental threats and conservation efforts


• Public engagement is key to conservation success.
• A well informed public can increase support in conservation efforts.
• Identified knowledge gaps within the public in marine conservation efforts.
• Value-Action Gap present within the public in Cornwall, UK.
• Improved, interdisciplinary science communication can increase public engagement.


To successfully integrate and engage the general public into marine conservation decisions it is important that individuals are well informed. This study surveyed two sample groups, marine environmental professionals working in the UK, n = 61, and members of the public surveyed in Truro, Cornwall, UK, n = 71. Public awareness of marine environmental threats and conservation efforts was assessed through comparison with the, assumed well informed, professional sample. Findings suggest that the public are generally well informed of threats to the marine environment, but are significantly less well informed about marine conservation and management strategies. Furthermore, despite indicating concern for the marine environment, members of the public display significantly fewer pro-environmental behaviours than marine conservation professionals. Public knowledge (and action) gaps are discussed as well as how these may be minimised, including a more interdisciplinary and active approach to science communication and public engagement.

Continue reading ‘Assessing public awareness of marine environmental threats and conservation efforts’

Questions as indicators of ocean literacy: students’ online asynchronous discussion with a marine scientist

In this article, 61 high-school students learned about ocean acidification through a virtual laboratory followed by a virtual lecture and an asynchronous discussion with a marine scientist on an online platform: VoiceThread. This study focuses on the students’ development of ocean literacy when prompted to ask questions to the scientist. The students’ questions were thematically analysed to assess (1) the kind of reasoning that can be discerned as premises of the students’ questions and (2) what possibilities for enhancing ocean literacy emerge in this instructional activity. The results show how interacting with a scientist gives the students an entry point to the world of natural sciences with its complexity, uncertainty and choices that go beyond the idealised form in which natural sciences often are presented in school. This activity offers an affordable way of bringing marine science to school by providing extensive expertise from a marine scientist. Students get a chance to mobilise their pre-existing knowledge in the field of marine science. The holistic expertise of the marine scientist allows students to explore and reason around a very wide range of ideas and aspect of natural sciences that goes beyond the range offered by the school settings.

Continue reading ‘Questions as indicators of ocean literacy: students’ online asynchronous discussion with a marine scientist’

Subscribe to the RSS feed

Powered by FeedBurner

Follow AnneMarin on Twitter

Blog Stats

  • 1,266,082 hits


Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book